Google unveiled Android Wear today, a lightweight version of Android that manufacturers can use to power smartwatches and other wearable gizmos.
None of the manufacturers listed as Android Wear partners (Samsung, Fossil, LG, HTC, Motorola, and a few others) have a device ready right now, but we should start seeing them go on sale in the coming months.
In the meantime, Google gave us a really good look at what the Android Wear operating system will be able to do. Specifically, it seems to rely heavily on Google Now, the digital assistant that comes with Android phones and as a separate app for the iPhone.
In short, Google Now blows Siri out of the water. And it has the potential to be even more useful on wearable devices that are designed to contextualize your notifications and display what’s most relevant to you at any given time.
If you’re unfamiliar with Google Now, it works by pulling in data from all your Google services like Gmail, Calendar, Maps, searches, etc. and figures out on its own what to show you.
For example, if you have a meeting scheduled in your Google Calendar, Google Now can automatically alert you when to leave so you can make it on time. It even takes traffic delays into account. It can also scan your Gmail inbox for upcoming flight notifications and UPS/FedEx package shipments.
That’s barely scratching the surface of what Google Now can do, but just know it’s an incredibly powerful tool for synthesizing all your digital information. Plus, Google keeps layering new features on top of Google Now, so it gets better the more you use it.
And that’s what makes Google Now the killer feature for smartwatches. It doesn’t make sense to have users swipe around to find what they want on a smartwatch. The real challenge is to create a product that just knows what you want to see based on where you are and what you’re doing. And if you really do need to look something up, Google Now is equipped with excellent voice search that can bring you the one answer you’re looking for, not a list of search results like Siri often does.
It raises an interesting question: If and when Apple releases a smartwatch, would you rather have a device powered by Siri or Google Now?